As one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion activists, Jeff White has been arrested more times than he can count. But what may land the 60-year-old in prison isn’t a protest, but a secret multi-year scheme to defraud the federal government.
White, a conservative Christian, is the founder of a militant nonprofit called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. He is known for endorsing “irregular military tactics” against abortion providers and encouraging students to chalk slogans like “Your neighbor is a monster" near providers’ homes.
Last week, in what prosecutors said was the first nationwide case of Obamacare fraud, he pleaded guilty to swindling the government out of $27 million. Court documents show White enrolled drug addicts in Affordable Health Care Act plans for which they did not qualify, scoring rehabilitation centers millions of dollars from insurance companies and getting thousands in kickbacks on the side.
The father of 11 now faces more than five years in prison, according to his plea agreement, but shows no signs of slowing down on the anti-abortion front. In a blog post written just three days after his guilty plea, White urged his followers to donate to a new initiative he dubbed “Fetal Uprising.”
“It is time for a revolution in pro-life activism! Our colleges have been captured by extremists! Today, being pro-life or a Christian on campus is like being black in the 1960's,” he wrote. “The days of playing fair are over. It is time for a revolution, it is time for the resistance, it is time for a Fetal Uprising!”
Reached by phone on Thursday, White told The Daily Beast he wasn’t abandoning his activism.
“I intend to go forward fighting injustice for the rest of my life until the day I die,” he said. “If I end up in prison, I’ll probably find some injustice there. That’s just the way life is.”
White also claimed that his healthcare scheme wasn’t intended to enrich himself but to help homeless addicts access treatment. He claimed to have helped at least 300 people get into treatment programs, in what he described as a “personal fight” against greedy insurance companies.
“I did not line my pockets,” he said. “I live in a little modest cabin. I drive an ‘83 Jeep. I am not by any stretch of the imagination living high on the hog.”
The charges against him paint a different picture. According to court documents, White and his son repeatedly enrolled addicts in Obamacare programs in the states that reimbursed most for rehabilitation treatment, regardless of whether the patients actually lived there or not.
To do so, they created fake residential leases, invented fictional landlords and submitted false cell phone numbers to the government. In exchange, the pricey rehabilitation programs would pay the Whites a percentage of the fees for every addict they enrolled, to the tune of $3,000-$7,500 per patient, according to court documents.
Based on his own claims of helping 300 people into treatment programs, White would have pocketed at least $1 million off of the scheme.
“The Whites exploited both the opioid epidemic and the ACA by enrolling people with serious drug addictions into insurance programs for the sole purpose of enriching themselves and so-called rehabilitation centers,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Turner said in a press release announcing the plea deal, which was previously reported by Rewire.
All the while, White was running Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust–one of the most active, controversial anti-abortion groups in the country. The organization, which is based in California, has attracted international attention for comparing abortion in the U.S. to the genocide of Jews in World War II, and for protesting outside the New Mexico Holocaust & Intolerance Museum to drive home the point.
The group is also known for training children to protest outside abortion clinics. Its summer-camp-inspired “Survivors ProLife Training Camp” teaches teens to carry posters of fetal remains and chalk “abortion is murder” on sidewalks. It claims to have instructed more than 1,000 students in how to be “an effective voice for the preborn.”
White founded the group in 1998, after leaving the infamous anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and has served as its chief spokesperson, fundraiser, and cheerleader ever since. He is the only employee of the group listed on its latest available tax return, which shows it has a budget of more than $270,000.
James Rainboldt, a Los Angeles-based attorney and Survivors board member, told The Daily Beast he didn’t know how the group would proceed without White.
“Honestly we haven't considered it. It’s all fairly fresh.” Rainboldt said. “Jeff has a good heart, a very kind heart, and sometimes it gets him into trouble. This is a prime example of that.”
The attorney declined to elaborate on what other examples might be, but court filings show White has run into several legal issues with his businesses in the past. In 2015, he and his business partner were ordered to pay more than $200,000 to the estate of a former associate, after refusing to pay off a loan on a failed real estate business. Last year, White and his son were sued by the owners of a sober living facility for $375,000 in unfulfilled marketing services. The suit was later dismissed without prejudice.
Still, several of White’s friends told The Daily Beast they were blindsided by the fraud charges and guilty plea.
One friend, Al Howard, said he had known White for decades, and even invited him to serve on the board of his pregnant women’s shelter. He described White as “a very good friend, very helpful,” and “a man who really loves children.”
Asked if White would remain on the board of the organization, however, Howard demurred.
“He probably won’t, especially if he gets jail time, because he wouldn’t be any good to us,” Howard said.